Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
“Not how long, but how well you have lived is the main thing.” ~Seneca
Perhaps like some of you, I have had a few sleepless nights pondering my mortality. I am in love with my life and wish to have as much of it as I possibly can. I believe Seneca had the right idea when he wrote this quote, but I do believe you can live long and well if you follow these 7 daily tips.
1. A body in motion stays in motion
Recently I read about Fauja Singh who in his 80’s started running long distances and at 101 years old ran the London marathon in under 8 hours. He turned 105 years old on April 1st, 2016 and continues to run for fun. Not all of us can run a marathon like Mr. Singh, but it is important to exercise daily for at least 30 minutes. Studies have shown that prolonged sedentary behavior, like sitting at your desk for 8 hours a day is associated with detrimental health outcomes, regardless of any other physical activity. To counter this, try standing at your desk while you work. Perhaps, go for a walk during your lunch break. Make it a habit to go for a walk with a family member or significant other in the evening. This is a great way to spend time together and still get in some physical activity. Make it a weekly goal to spend more time with family than with electronics. Turn off the TV, computer, and cell phone. Dedicate time to engage with your loved ones. Try going for a hike or passing a ball. There are so many health benefits from exercising. It can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, fight diabetes and reduce stress. Start moving!
2. Keep your mind young
As our body ages so does our brain. With the aging of the brain, mental functioning can deteriorate. By exercising our brain and keeping it active we can keep it fit and reduce the risk of age-related memory loss. Stagnant routines in elderly people have been shown to cause depression and feelings of loneliness. There are many “mental gymnastics” you can do to keep your brain fit. The key is to keep learning new things and keep yourself engaged. A perfect example of this is Ms. Doreetha Daniels who at the age of ninety-nine graduated from college with a degree in social sciences.
Here are a few suggestions on how to keep your mind active:
Reading a good book can stimulate your brain to remember many details. These new memories will create pathways in your brain and strengthen existing ones. Reading keeps your mind fluid and strengthens short-term memory recall.
B) Take a class in something that interests you
Learn a new language! Studies have shown that learning a second language boosts memory. The more the brain is used the better it will function.
C) Play games
Games like chess, checkers, cards, board games and crossword puzzles are great for memory and logic. Games like these also increase mental clarity and concentration. An added bonus is that they are a great way to connect with family and friends.
3. Eat healthily
There are numerous studies that show that eating a nutritious and balanced diet helps improve and maintain health. It also helps defend against age-related illnesses. Maintaining a healthy weight by keeping a balance between calories in and calories out is essential. Current statistics suggest that about 34% of adults in American are obese and 17% of 2-19 year-olds are obese. Some of the risks associated with obesity and not eating well are heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Make it a goal that half of your plate consists of fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on vegetables. The other half should include whole grains and lean protein.
In the words of Lord Byron, “Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” Don’t go a day without laughing. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of laughter. Studies have shown that laughter may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies and boost the immune system as well as reduce stress hormones and release endorphins. Laughter can improve your overall sense of well-being and even relieve pain. So, embrace your inner child and find joy in the world around you. There are so many opportunities to laugh and share laughter with your loved ones. Make it a goal to start and end your day with a smile.
5. Stay connected
As we age, it is essential to embrace the changes and transitions that occur in order to maintain a sense of vitality and relevance. A support group of family and friends can help us stay balanced and enjoying life. A simple conversation with a friend or loved one can be invigorating. Strong social ties have been associated with lower blood pressure and a longer life expectancy. By maintaining and sustaining health you can continue learning and exploring the world around you well into old age. Getting older does not mean you are done living. Stay curious about life. Look for joy and meaning where you haven’t looked before. As Aldous Huxley said, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”
6. Don’t Smoke
Nothing good can be said about the effects of smoking. Studies have shown that smoking cigarettes contributes to heart disease, osteoporosis, emphysema, chronic lung problems and many types of cancer. According to the American Lung Association, 90% of male lung cancer patients develop their disease because of smoking. If you are a smoker, it’s not too late to quit. Here is the good news. Studies have shown that smokers who quit can repair some, if not all of the damage done to their bodies.
7. Have an annual physical
This is not a daily point, but nevertheless, it is important. Think of your body as the means of transportation to navigate through life. Just like you regularly get an oil change for your car, it is important to see your doctor at least once a year to follow preventive care and screening guidelines. By doing this you can stay on top of your health and catch any ailment before it becomes an issue.
Perhaps some of you will struggle with some of these suggestions. If so, it is important to remember not to give up. Remember, growth can’t happen in the comfort zone.
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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